Thursday, October 10, 2013

What I love.

            What. What I'm thinking about. I've been thinking about you a lot. Its funny, all the times I bring you up to girls I'm dating one of two things happens: "Why are you not dating her?" or "Why is your best friend 58, 67, 79?" I don't really have an excuse, you don't pick your Best Friends, they just kinda are.So I usually just dodge the question and keep talking about her. So here I go yet again---

        The first time I over spoke to What was through my mom's "belly button window." She would say "Hello, Michael" and I would probably start kicking wanting to get out just to meet her. My family, just 8 of "us," at that point had just moved in at 35712, right across the street from 35673. My mom and her connected immediately. Best buds. as I learned to talk, I gave her her name. One day she came over to visit me and my Mom and Dad. She was holding me and said "Mom's her name," pointing to my mother, "Dad's his name" pointing my Dad. At this point you'd think I could learn one more. She asked "What's my name?" I said, "What." It stuck.

          As i grew I spent 50% at home 50% at What's. My mom was naturally always calling to see where we were. When my mom asked me to do some chores or practice piano or anytime she said all my three names, you bet I was running across the street. I'd poke my head through the mail slot and yell, is anybody hooooome? She'd open the door and we would watch one of her many Disney videos on VHS. (NOTE: I am holding a remote in the picture below). Our favorite was Mickey's Trailer because of all the gadgets and Sword of the Stone because it was about our favorite era, the medieval.

             At 430 every afternoon from 1-4th grade she'd fix me an ice cream sundae and I'd curl up on the La-z-boy and watch Ducktales. She was teaching English at Irvington at the time so she needed sometime to wind down herself. As her kids John and Dani we're already old and had their own kids just a tad bit younger than I as you could imagine, we fell in, eating delicious waffles watching Disney, quizzing each other on the capitals and states from her educational map placemats (always teaching), Taniyah (Nicole) would "school" me and my brother something proper. Learning so many trivial and random things geared me up for our favorite show in my older years, Jeopardy. We both fantasized about being on the show but never did. It was enough to use our armchair buzzers.

         Speaking of school, she always taught me. About everything. A natural educator, we would never finish a film without a lesson. We'd watch Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments her pausing to tell us which one was Peter or why the Israelites were carrying Joseph's bones in their exodus from Egypt. She would even invite us to the High School she taught at where I saw the Hobbit and Fiddler on the Roof; some of the first musicals I ever saw.  She taught me culture. From listening to Beatles to watching classic noir with Bogie or Mr. Bond played by her favorite scotsman to the most rugged historian nerd out there: Indiana Jones. When I was hit by a car at 12 the first thing she noticed was that I got a scar on my chin just like Harrison Ford. Cool.

        I couldn't talk about cool without including sports and the one we loved the most, Football. We LOVED it. Every sunday after church we watched the Niners play, first with the legends, Floyd, Cross, Montana, Rice then of course when Steve came to town from our favorite college team, it was pandemonium. She would fix up the same perfect football snack: Lipton's Onion Dip with Ruffles Potato Chips. She KNEW how to watch football.

       The food didn't stop there. We would take trips to get a Happy Meal all the time when I was just a boy. That was when I wanted it just for the toy. She spoiled me. As soon as my palate developed she found out I loved a good Steak and a baked potato. Just like her. She called me her meat and potatoes boy. We'd go to Cattlemen's often but when she wanted to show me an excellent steak for a special occasion (one, she said, DID NOT need sauce) she took me to the Sundance Mining Company in Palo Alto or even Shadowbrook in Capitola. These places were nice. Real nice.

         As I got a little older, and my only extra-curricular were those after-school excelled classes, My mom and What wanted something good for me. Something meaningful that would enrich me culturally.  This influenced my life. A lot. We went to the Hayward Library for a free little concert given by the Golden Gate Boys Choir. My mother would argue some of her worst experiences came from this time in my life (haha) but honestly I had some of the most amazing experiences with the choir: singing for the Pope, touring europe, singing in SF Opera productions, What's favorite and my favorite being Carmen. She even bought some very pricy tickets for her and my parents in the Orchestra section. Food was a part of everything so of course we would go to this amazing New York Style Deli restaurant called Max's Opera Cafe where all the waiters sang. It was there I was introduced to my first Bing Cherry New York Cheesecake. Yum.

        San Francisco was her favorite city maybe rivaled by Park City and Carmel. We didn't just eat there, she took me to many museums, two of her favorites, being DeYoung and the Palace Legion of Honor. At the DeYoung museum she took me, wide eyed to their Austrian Arms and Armour exhibit. I still remember that one exhibit after 25 years. It featured our favorite era: the Medieval.

           As the years went by, the seasons brought many distinct events to What's house. In the summer it was Pool party barbecues, sometime scheming of the twenty different ways we could go down the slide playing with all the confiscated SuperSoakers from her time being a Vice Principal at Irvington. We swam so much, even on sunday for a "sacred swim," it wasn't surprising that a good portion of the Wood Family swam for the local High School.

           Probably the toughest seasons for me will be the ones we spent inside. If we went outside we'd be bundled up for a brisk walk which was also great. Most of all we just loved to be inside. That might sound odd, but What and I loved the rain. It was the only precipitation we ever got in the Bay Area. We loved the way it fell on the roof. We loved the thunder roar and lightning crash.  We'd have a fire roaring and read our favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird, John Grisham Novels or a classic movie on TV.  Fall was Football or watching Night of The Living Dead near Halloween. Thanksgiving meant her classic raspberry jello with graham cracker cream sauce being the prized item at our family's feast. We'd then walk it off around the lake, she loved that.  Christmas meant setting up villages in her family room. We'd dust off the outside lights (seen in the picture of the house above) she has had up for 32 plus years. We'd get the tree out and lighting and decorating it listening to Christmas at Boots' Place. Mostly it meant holding her hand as we sat on that same tattered grey la-z-boy and watch Mickey's Christmas Carol.

            I started this blog entry back in May when What passed. I wanted to do a kind of obituary. From my perspective. It probably looks like I'm telling nearly everything I ever did with her. Not even close. Like I said earlier, I don't know if anyone will really know her impact on my life. The little things that happen throughout the day that remind me of her. If you skipped any of the stories above I don't blame you. One thing she could never stop is my thoroughness. To exhaustion. Even in singing her praises. I do want you to know one thing however. What was the most selfless person I've personally known. She's What I love. What I know. What I miss. What I can only aspire to be.